Psalm 21 – Rejoicing in God’s Victory
Psalm 21 blends thankful praise for God’s victory on the king’s behalf with an affirmation of the king’s unfailing trust in God’s saving action. To these are added vivid expressions of the terrible destruction which is to fall upon the king’s foes (vv.9-13). The psalm opens and closes with references to God’s strength, in which the king rejoices and upon which he depends for deliverance in time of trouble. In the ancient pagan civilizations of biblical times, kings were held to possess in themselves some portion of the divinity of their gods. This was not so in Israel, as Psalm 21 clearly shows. Though the king enjoys many blessings, they all arise directly from his relationship with the one God of Israel, the Lord (Yahweh). As God’s chosen one, the king enjoys divine favor, but he does not share in God’s divinity. Rather, as this psalm indicates, the king’s successes and victories come from God, the source of all blessing. Verse 8 expresses succinctly that all the good that comes to the king arises from God’s mercy—in Hebrew, hesed, that term used to denote particularly God’s faithful love and steadfast mercy (cf. Ps 13). St. Paul expresses the same understanding of his own experience as the undeserving recipient of God’s goodness and blessing. “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7). St. Paul’s great achievement is not to be credited to his own abilities, but rather the grace of God at work in him. In the end, we must recognize that everything we have is the gift of God— unmerited, yes, but gratefully accepted.
Psalm 21 (20)
1 For the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
2 In your stréngth, O Lórd, the kíng rejóices;
how gréatly your salvátion mákes him glád!
3 You have gránted hím his héart’s desíre;
you have nót withhéld the práyer of his líps.
4 You cáme to méet him with bléssings of prospérity;
you have sét on his héad a crówn of pure góld.
5 He ásked you for lífe and thís you have gíven:
dáys that will lást from áge to áge.
6 By your sáving help gréat is his glóry;
you have bestówed upon him májesty and spléndor;
7 you have gránted him bléssings foréver,
made him rejóice with the jóy of your présence.
8 The kíng has pláced his trúst in the Lórd.
Through the mércy of the Móst High, hé is unsháken.
9 Your hánd will find óut all your fóes,
your right hánd will find óut those that háte you.
10 You will búrn them like a blázing fúrnace
on the dáy when yóu appéar,
and the Lórd will consúme them in his ánger:
fíre will swállow them úp.
11 You will wípe out their descéndants from the éarth,
and their óffspring from the húman ráce.
12 Thóugh they planned évil agáinst you,
though they plótted, they shall nót preváil.
13 For yóu will fórce them to retréat;
at thém you will áim with your bów.
14 O Lórd, aríse in your stréngth;
we shall síng and práise your pówer.
Prayer for Psalm 21
Almighty God, source of blessing and every good gift, may we never cease to acknowledge the good things with which you have favored us. Just as you never cease to bestow on us your gracious care, so continue to expand the vision of our faith, that we may see ever more clearly your hand at work in our lives. To you be all praise and honor, glory and thanksgiving, now and forever. Amen.